Daniel Carter broke Ireland’s hearts when he slotted home an 80th-minute drop goal to give New Zealand a tense 22-19 victory over the tourists in Christchurch yesterday, wrapping up their three-match series with a game to spare.
Ireland had never beaten the All Blacks in their 25 previous encounters, with a 10-10 draw in 1973 the closest they came in the 107 years they have been playing Tests, and yesterday’s match at a chilly Rugby League Park was there for the taking.
They tourists the opening quarter and the decision to opt for a lineout in the corner instead of taking a kickable penalty shot at 0-0 paid off when scrumhalf Conor Murray sniped around the blindside of a ruck and touched down for his first test try.
Jonathan Sexton converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead, which they built on eight minutes later after another sustained period of pressure allowed the flyhalf to punish an illegal block at the ruck by Owen Franks with his first penalty.
The 10-0 scoreline seemed to spark the All Blacks into action and as they built phases and dominated territory, the visitors gave away silly penalties, three of which Carter slotted between the posts to bring the All Blacks back to 10-9.
The All Blacks warmed the shivering crowd of 21,000 when they began the second half with renewed vigor, hammering at Ireland and holding the ball for several phases for Aaron Smith to get driven over in the corner for his first test try.
Carter converted to give the home side their first lead of the game at 16-10, though that was quickly reduced when Sexton slotted his second penalty after the All Blacks had turned the ball over from the kickoff.
Sexton equalized with his fourth penalty and had an opportunity to give Ireland the lead when Israel Dagg was sin-binned for a late charge on Rob Kearney with eight minutes remaining, though the Leinster flyhalf’s long-distance attempt fell short.
The All Blacks, however, managed to get down field one last time and after a series of sustained attacks, the ball was tossed out to Carter, who lined up the drop goal from the pocket to preserve New Zealand’s unbeaten record against Ireland.
SCOTLAND 37, FIJI 25
AFP, LAUTOKA, FIJI
A late try from Dutch-born Tim Visser and a penalty by Greig Laidlaw saw Scotland ease to a win over Fiji yesterday to remain unbeaten on their Southern Hemisphere tour.
Visser scored two tries on his debut, while flyhalf Laidlaw, who scored all the points when Scotland defeated Australia 9-6 in heavy rain, finished with a match haul of 22 points in the hot Fiji conditions.
Scotland led 24-11 at halftime before Fiji made a gallant fightback to trail 25-27, with Laidlaw and Visser then putting the result beyond doubt.
“It was hard work and the conditions were not what we’re used to,” said Visser, who added he was “very happy to get the two tries in my debut match and I couldn’t have hoped for more.”
Fiji, who lack the international exposure of top tier sides like Scotland, surprised the Six Nations team with a strong opening and led 6-0 after two early penalties by Jonetai Ralulu.
However, as the speed and combinations of Scotland began to gel the tide turned with Laidlaw scoring and converting their first try to have the tourists up 7-6 and Fiji never regained the lead.
Fiji’s first try was the result of poor defense by Scotland, which allowed Josefa Domolailai to burst his way to the line before Scotland responded with a Laidlaw penalty and Visser’s first try.